The Importance of NXT ARRIVAL to the WWE Network: Are You Ready?

NXT arRIVAL

NXT arRIVAL (February 27, 2014) – Full Sail University (Winter Park, Florida) – Main Event: Bo Dallas vs. Adrian Neville (NXT Championship) – Announcers: Tom Phillips, William Regal, and Byron Saxton.

I signed up for the WWE Network the first day it was available and I’ve been gorging on the network since Monday night. I’ve watched the RAW Backstage Pass post-game show (and wondered if the existence of this show will kill the post-TV RAW dark match), an ECW match between Terry Funk and Jimmy Snuka, WrestleMania VI (and suffered through some playback issues that have already been corrected), this week’s Main Event, WrestleMania Rewind, Countdown (Top 10 Catchphrases), and Legends of Wrestling, with “Mean” Gene, Piper, Michael Hayes, DDP, and Jim Ross.

Everyone that I’ve talked to loves the WWE Network, and almost everyone has a playlist similar to mine – some of the new stuff and a big old helping hand of the old stuff.

To suddenly have access to this massive back catalog of content welcomes such a feast, of course, but the WWE is smart enough to realize that’s only going to last so long. I can watch documentaries on the old territory days all day long (the stories the Legends of Wrestling panel were telling were even better than the matches), but that programming isn’t going to grow very many new fans.

It’s telling and important that the first live event to be broadcast on the WWE Network is NXT ARRIVAL. Or ArRIVAL. Or arRIVAL. Or however the hell we’re supposed to spell it.

The existence of the NXT program and Performance Center has already shown big dividends for the WWE roster. The Shield, the Wyatts, Big E, Cesaro, Xavier Woods, Summer Rae, and Emma have already made their way to the bright lights of Stamford, and having NXT allowed them every possible advantage to perfect their in-ring and out-of-ring skills. Just as critically, it allows them to build a fan base, and with the creation of the WWE Network and the need for new programming, young talent has an even greater opportunity to shine and prosper, and just as importantly, the WWE has an opportunity to grow not only the next generation of talent but also the next generation of fans.

Of course, what WWE Creative does with this talent once they arrive is another matter: The Shield and Wyatts have been home runs. Cesaro has delivered in the ring but it’s taken a while for the WWE to find the right spot for him. Big E won the Intercontinental Championship, or as it’s really been known the past few years, the Place Where Careers Go to Stagnate. Summer Rae and Emma have been sidekicks. Xavier Woods has been seen once or twice.

The launch of the WWE Network is going to put as many eyeballs onto NXT talent as they’ve ever had.

So who delivers?

The opening match of the night features one of the best in-ring rivalries we’ve seen in NXT as Cesaro and Sami Zayn go at it, yet again. Their previous two-out-of-three falls match was one of the best matches of last year, and while matching that would be too much to ask for, Zayn and Cesaro delivered a fantastic match once again. The WWE could take this match and toss it on one of their PPVs and it’d be one of the top matches of the night. These two guys have simply amazing chemistry together and they put combo moves together that I don’t see anyone else doing. They’re the kind of moves that makes you wish John Woo was directing NXT so you could slow down the action and appreciate the physicality of their performance.

When you watch the former El Generico wrestle, you can see the quandary he puts the higher ups at WWE in, as he fits solidly in the Punk/Bryan/Cesaro indie wrestler mold. I’ll watch him wrestle all day long, but given what we know of the WWE, where is he gonna fit on the main roster?

There needs to be a place for him at some point, because he’s just too much fun to watch. Zayn also sold the storyline really well of wanting one more match to prove himself to Cesaro. It’s interesting that after the match was over and Cesaro had won yet again that the victor returned to the ring to embrace Zayn and give him some respect. Is this further foreshadowing a face turn for Cesaro, or is it just a nice touch for a special event?

I’ve argued a few times since CM Punk walked/”walked”/TBD that Cesaro is the most natural landing spot for Punk’s fans, but after all of the aborted pushes for Ziggler and Sandow, I’ll believe in Cesaro’s push if it turns into a match at WrestleMania XXX that turns into a feud the night after.

It’s always a risky proposition when an event kicks off with a match you know will be a contender for match of the night, and ArRIVAL follows up Zayn/Cesaro with a dip in quality, as it to be expected. Let’s not forget NXT is a developmental territory, and so it’s every bit as important to see potential as it is a polished product. Mojo Rawley defeats CJ Parker in a match that had more going on in the wrestling than it did in the characters. I hadn’t seen either one of these guys before (I’ve only watched a smattering of NXT matches before tonight) and my first impression is that the Hype Guy and the Save the Earth Guy have a ways to go.

The tag titles were next up, as Ascension (a less cartoony Demolition) faced off against Too Cool (a less young Too Cool). It’s a good pairing to put the bad asses in the ring against the goofballs, but the match doesn’t allow Ascension to shine as much as it allows them to get a few minutes of ring time in front of people who haven’t seen them before. This match wasn’t overly impressive, but there’s legit potential here, and they’ve got a highly impressive light show.

Next up, the NXT Women’s Championship, and … I don’t know.

I just don’t get how the current WWE handles female wrestlers. I’ve only seen Emma since she’s been appearing on RAW and she’s all bubbles and smiles and stupid dancing and paired with Santino and ugh.

The biggest surprise of the night, then, was how good she is in the ring. Her and Paige put on a heck of a match. It’s actually my favorite match of the entire night, in part because I was surprised by how good it was. The ladies put on a great match; Paige and Emma showed off more moves than the entire WWE Divas division (minus Natalya) have demonstrated in the past six months. It’s easy to criticize the talent for this, but given what the WWE has done with Emma versus what she showed here, I don’t know who to blame.

I’ve heard good things about Paige for awhile and watched a few of her matches, and one thing is painfully obvious when you watch the entire Paige experience:

She’s a superstar.

There’s no one on the main roster who looks like her or sounds like her or wrestles like her.

Of course, this means when she does get her call up it will likely to be Goldust’s girlfriend or El Matador Femenino or 3MB’s groupie.

Here’s hoping they let Paige continue to be what she is here, a captivating performer. Further, let’s hope they let Emma be more the submission specialist she is here than Santino’s lovesick sidekick. Her persona here is kind of a mess, with the dancing and bubbles and stupid music and actual wrestling. My brain hurts, but it’s a good kind of hurt. I went from hating her to digging her in the course of one night.

Something happened after this match with Xavier Woods, but my stream went dead so not all of the bugs have been cleared out of the new system just yet.

The stream re-started for the final match, a NXT Championship ladder match between Bo Dallas and Adrian Neville. It was a pretty solid match and a good close to the night, as Neville became only the fourth NXT Champion. My impressions of the two wrestlers are that Bo Dallas is a solid in-ring performer in search of an effective personality (the whole Bo-liever angle is dumb) while Neville needs only a bit more experience before getting the call up. Neville is an interesting cat, though, because he’s a high-flyer but he’s more muscular than the typical Jeff Hardy flyer.

The overall production quality was really strong, which added to the enjoyment. Tom Phillips is solid at the play-by-play, but it’s William Regal’s color commentary that makes the broadcast so fun to listen to. Unlike the Cole/JBL/King pairing on RAW, Phillips/Regal/Byron Sexton aren’t just hear to yuk it up.

I’ve always been a big Regal fan, and he’s perfect at the announce table for NXT. All of his commentary is geared towards the potential of the people before him.

On the whole, ArRIVAL was a really good event and another fine addition to the WWE Network. I’m looking forward to more.

__________

MATCH OF THE NIGHT: Paige vs. Emma and Zayn vs. Cesaro

STAR OF THE NIGHT: Paige. No doubt. She’s still a kid so there’s no reason to rush her to the WWE, but when she arrives she’s quickly going to be the center of the Divas division for a very long time.

MOMENT OF THE NIGHT: Neville winning the title. Good ladder match, good finish.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: The Crowd (to Stephanie McMahon): “You’ve still got it.” Stephanie (to the Crowd, with a smile on her face): “Ladies and gentlemen, I never lost it.”

RUNNER-UP QUOTE #1: William Regal: “She was born to kick people in the head,” and then shortly later, “She’s the kind of woman if you were married to her you wouldn’t want to come home five dollars short in your paycheck.”

RUNNER-UP QUOTE #2: William Regal: “Do you realize how foolish I feel when I say Sexay?”

__________

Full Card Results

1. Cesaro defeated Sami Zayn – Singles
2. Mojo Rawley defeated CJ Parker – Singles
3. The Ascension (Viktor and Konnor) defeated Too Cool (Scotty 2 Hotty and Grandmaster Sexay) – Tag Team Championship
4. Paige (c) defeated Emma by submission – NXT Women’s Championship
5. Tyler Breeze defeated Xavier Woods – Singles
6. Adrian Neville defeated Bo Dallas – NXT Championship

__________

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